Tag

anxiety

Caregiving is a noble task

Unlike the many girls whom I dated, Doris Lau, my late wife was very down-to-earth. I found her to be sincere and caring. This was the woman who would change my life – dramatically. Doris passed away on 17th April 2014 after she was stricken with pneumonia. She died within a week that she was hospitalized in Tan Tock Seng Hospital. 

 

Undoubtedly, Good Friday has special significance to both my wife and I. Why? Because this is the most painful day of the year as we remember how Jesus suffered and was put to death for the sins of all of us.  Despite being tortured and humiliated, Jesus who displayed enormous strength was able to show compassion and forgiveness.  

 

When Doris first met Raymond: By some strange coincidence, 12th April 1974 was the day that I first met Doris. And it happened to be on Good Friday. And though it is an arduous and painful journey for me to manage my wife’s dreaded schizophrenia for 40 years, I often draw my strength and compassion from Jesus. And each time that I suffer from burnout, Jesus is always there to carry me on His shoulders. His pictures are in our home; and He is very much alive in our hearts. 

 

Doris has battled schizophrenia for forty-four years. The disease first struck Doris at the tender age of 17.  Many people find it very hard to believe that I married her despite her mental illness. In caring for Doris for four decades, I had grown to love her more and more each day. I have seen this illness ravage more than half her life and the journey, though very difficult, was so rewarding when I saw her enjoy and live life to the fullest.  

 

Seeing the ‘demons’ in her mind: During our 40 years marriage, my wife has been hospitalized in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) ¬– Singapore’s biggest public psychiatric hospital twelve times during our 40 years’ marriage and I have witnessed all her delusions, hallucinations, depression and fears. Seeing Doris struggling with the “demons in her mind” has been extremely painful for me. 

 

My long hours at work in broadcasting saw Doris spending many days and nights all alone.  The loneliness and the isolation saw her missing out on her medications, resulting in relapses. 

 

When Doris was in a stable condition, she is a loving and kind-hearted person. But during her relapses, I become her emotional punching bag. I have taken all her emotional outbursts quietly, allowing her to scold, shout and nag at me because I fully understand how this illness torments her, how it frustrates her.

 

Over the years, I have learnt to forgive my wife as I fully understand that it is the illness, and not her.  Through my experience in caring for Doris, I have learnt to completely separate the two. Many people, including family members do not really understand the specialized care that the mentally ill need or the unremitting emotional wear and tear that caregivers have to endure every day of their lives. This illness is terrifying because it is unpredictable.  

 

The beauty from within: What struck me most about Doris was the beauty of her heart. She had also touched me with her sincerity. She taught me how to be prudent with spending, advising me not to waste money on taxis, but to travel by buses. Most certainly, she has always had my best interest at heart. This is one of the primary reasons why I took her to be my life-long partner even though I knew I would face huge obstacles during this part of my life.  

 

When the relapse comes on, the nightmare begins: Shortly afterwards my family members and I were shocked to witness the torment Doris went through when the relapse of schizophrenia reared its ugly head.  The enormous stress she went through during the run-up to our marriage took a heavy toll on my wife.  

 

Doris was eventually hospitalized at the old Woodbridge Hospital (now known as IMH) for about two weeks, and my daily visits helped a great deal in her recovery.  This is why I have always emphasized during my motivational talks or in the books I write that emotional support is vital in helping patients in their recovery. 

 

Caregiving – a noble task: I’ve always felt that caregiving is a noble task; and it must be promoted as such. Though it often takes the wind out of you, it will be such a joy when you see first-hand the smiles on their faces, their creativity and their happiness when they are in their full recovery stage. 

 

In managing a loved one with mental illness, practice the 3Ps – Patience, Perseverance and Prayer.  Not always the easiest task, but I assure you that if you can find the strength to do that – God will bless you in more ways than one as He has done for me and my wife. 

 

Today, I have authored 30 books and, in the process, I have gone on to become a motivational speaker, a songwriter, regular forum writer to the mainstream newspapers and even a TV actor.  I am also Singapore’s leading advocate for the mentally ill and volunteer my time with IMH, the Singapore Association for Mental Health and the Silver Ribbon Singapore. 

 

In producing my books, I also managed to “infect” my wife with the power of the pen. And before she died, Doris became an author of 8 successful books because she fully understood that writing is healing. 

 

Coping with the loss of my wife: It was a real struggle for me to come to terms with the sudden passing of my wife – more so when my whole world revolved around Doris. I went through situational depression for one solid year and experienced insomnia for the same troubling period. Two things helped me to come out of this difficult period: Counselling from a psychologist and the love from a Filipino girl whom I got engaged to in March this year.  

 

Many people have asked me why I willingly married Doris despite knowing of her mental illness. My answer to them is simple: “If schizophrenia and arthritis was part of the life of the woman I love, then it must surely have been part of mine too. I did not necessarily like what the illnesses did to her, but it is her that I love. And that had, and will always be, the guiding, motivating force of my life.

I will never love myself

I was insecure about my appearance from a very young age. I started to dislike how I looked and wanted to lose weight since I was in primary school and now I’m 17, in poly, nothing has changed. I still hate my body, my face and even my personality. The hate just seems to grow stronger and it feels like I will never love myself. I realised this just recently that no matter how many genuine compliments I get, I will never see myself as a beautiful person. I told some of my friends that I disliked myself and one of them simply asked ‘Why?’ but I couldn’t give a simple answer.

I just want to end my life now

I took my Primary School Leaving Examination at the age of 12. When the results came back all I saw was failure. Everyone else was doing better. I still got into a school under the Normal Technical stream which most students do not want to end up in since there is only one path – Institute of Technical Education.

 

Well I took my N-Levels and got 9 Points and got into a good course. First year is always hard but at the end of Year 1 I finally broke and crashed apart. I continued on with Year 2 however I broke even more and ended up at the Institute of Mental Health. I was told to take a Leave of Absence as the school thought I couldn’t catch up with my studies. My dreams of going to Polytechnic is now shattered and I just want to end my life now.

Please hold on

At the age of 12, I was so suicidal because of my family and class situation. Then at the age of 15 I finally got help at the Institute of Mental Health but I was so scared that it would affect my career. I stopped going there which was kind of stupid when I think back about it. Then at age 16 which was my first year in applied food science at ITE, my suicidal thoughts got so bad and my cutting got deeper. I got help again and this time I got admitted to the ward. 

 

I thought things were starting to get better but it did not and the medication just kept increasing. Also being gay (which I dare not tell my parents) I felt really left out. It’s as though I am not allowed to be who I am but to be honest I stopped caring about it. I really wanted to get better so I started opening up to my psychiatrist and psychologist which sort of helped but I am still very suicidal. 

 

My point here is to tell any teen or any age group that is never too late to get help, the faster you reach out the faster you could recover although it might take years and many breakdowns it will be worth it. 

 

I know many people have told you it is going to be okay so many times, I want you to know that there are some days that are going to be very hard but you are worth it, every single life counts. 

 

Having depression is like being colourblind so try to find colour in life. Everyone loves you, even I do so please hold on.

Never give up

I have been suffering from Severe Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder and Trichotillomania since I was 11 years old. I envy my friends when they are able to tie their hair so nicely in different types of styles and also let it down without being self conscious like I do.

 

I have a lot of friends, I am very sociable but also extremely introverted. I have come to realise that I am that person that’s actually alone, surrounded with people that I am familiar with. Even at home. It’s not until I met a close friend that I’m comfortable with, only she knows the real me. 

 

She would try to stop me from plucking my hair when I am unconscious or doing it out of anxiety even though I would get angry at her after that. I guess, it’s true when they say that you’re not alone. You’re just not exploring the friend that will be more than willing to be your listening ear, a helping hand and shoulder to cry on.

 

Yes I admit I still do have my psychotic episodes but it is not as bad when you let it out to someone you trust and are comfortable with. It is NOT necessary to be alone all the time and keep it in you to the point where you would think “exploding” ー giving up on the efforts you have put in to be okay. It is okay to fall back down sometimes. But never give up.

 

Try it out, I gambled on trying to lift all the weight I have on my shoulders, it worked. Explore and have someone that would be in the same effort you put in to feel okay. 

I feel like I’m suffocating

I have been feeling down for some time. I never thought I would end up this way. I was a nursing student, I loved what I was doing. I learnt about mental health and I never expected I would go down this route. I was a very confident person. I was never afraid of anything. But then it all changed. I quit school and I lost myself. 

 

It’s tough living with a drunk father. He stole my room key when I was out and barged into my room in the middle of the night when I was sleeping, screaming at the top of his voice. I was determined to kill myself that night but my friend managed to talk me out. I cut all contact from my family and avoided my father. My mother tried to ask me what was wrong but I avoided her question because she was partly the reason I got into this black hole. 

 

The constant stress, the biasness and all the scolding I got from my family for no reasons. When I finally picked up the courage to tell them my feelings, my mother could not accept it and started to compare who was going through worse problems. Why is it so hard for them to understand that I just need to be heard and understood. I could be better if she chose to accept what I said. Even if she could not accept it, she could just pretend to. All I need is to be heard. It hurts so bad when I do not have my family to support me through this stage. I feel like I’m suffocating, I have so much in me that I can not let out. It hurts so bad. I never thought I would go down this route…

I’ve had to wear a mask

In the past I’ve had to wear a mask when I talk to people. Meaning I’ve had to say the opposite of what I’ve felt instead of how I really feel about the situation. For example, when I worked in my previous media job, my colleagues require me to say I am coping well, when in actual fact, I don’t like the job and am suffering in it.

 

It was after 4 months when I told my SPD social worker I wanted to leave with immediate effect, so they arranged for me to leave work. But the stress there has taken a toll on me and I haven’t been able to be real in front of my family members as well.

 

I went to seek treatment at the hospital. Now after medication, the doctor has helped me by teaching me how to be myself. My family members have also encouraged me to take off my mask and say what I really feel or think about the problems that I have.

 

My relatives and friends also encourage me to do the things that make me happy, and they also remind me that I do not owe anyone a living.

 

With the support of people who care for me, I am now better able to be myself and I do not have to wear a mask in front of people anymore.

I nearly lost hope

My life was literally an act – pretending every single day that all was well and good. In the past, I decided that only me, myself and I would know about my mental illness. I felt ashamed to tell anyone about it. 

 

No one knew that I struggled with even the simplest of tasks. I couldn’t get out of bed and couldn’t get ready for school. Even showering and doing the laundry seemed impossible. Learning again how to be independent and ‘normal’ was painstaking. I nearly lost hope. Behind closed doors, I cried every day and night. Pulled my hair and blamed myself for being so weak. I got overly anxious and panic attacks kicked in. 

 

Since then, the attacks become more intense and frequent each day, it’s no longer a secret by now. My mental illness is now more visible than it ever was, hiding it is no longer possible. I always receive insensitive remarks and questions I don’t have answers to. After some time, I’ve decided that the only option left is to be open and truthful about my mental illness, and educate others about it.

 

Opening up is undeniably scary. We never know what others would say and how they would react. However, by opening up and sharing our story, we prove to ourselves and others that we are actually warriors full of courage and bravery. 

 

While the road to recovery is still long, I choose to focus on those who care and understand. To all who struggle with mental illnesses – please know that you’re not alone. You can and you will overcome and conquer what comes in your way. I understand you, I’m so proud of you and I believe in you. 

I try to fight every single day

Since I was young I’ve had pains and aches, which turned into periods of crying and extreme worrying. At 21, I was admitted to A&E after several consecutive panic attacks, diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder, and later, Agoraphobia as well. It’s hard, having to relearn how to do basic things such as getting out of the house, and taking public transport – things we often take for granted. 

 

It’s hard battling suicidal thoughts and tendencies and self-harm that slowly grows into an addiction. Feelings of worthlessness and emptiness, of never being good enough. It’s hard when you don’t know who you can count on or turn to, being socially isolated in class and feeling as though you have to beg to find a group for group work. 

 

I’ve been advised to take a medical leave of absence, and am considering it, to take a break from school and focus on recovery. It’s amazing how just 4 months since my diagnosis can cause such a drastic change in my life, but through it I’ve found the rare few who stick by me without judgement. For them, I try to fight every single day.

Why can’t I control my emotions?

For the past three years, I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety. What started out as simply academic stress became countless nervous breakdowns and panic attacks. It feels like a never-ending ride. I no longer recall what it feels like to be “normal”. I’ve shunned many people away from me and lost many opportunities. Why can’t I control my emotions? I wonder. 

 

“The greatest battles we fight, are the ones with ourselves.” It truly is isn’t it? I am fighting against the depression, against the anxiety within me, and although I haven’t won yet, I know I will someday.